India must invest more in science as its future is linked with it, and the country would change for the better if the government and the private sector increased spending on science education, leading scientist CNR Rao said on Sunday.
Rao, who is chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister,was Saturday named for India's highest civil honour, the Bharat Ratna, for his contribution to the field of science.
"India's future is linked with science. More investments will enable the youth to look at science as an important area of work for a great future. Only countries which advanced scientifically made progress, while those who neglected it are not known," Rao told reporters a day after he was conferred the country's highest civilian award.
Asserting that science was the way to go forward, Rao said though the country's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru believed in it, support for science is, unfortunately, not as good as it should be.
"It (support) is there, but not enough. We have to improve much more. If India invests in science over the next 10-20 years as much as China and South Korea do, we would be able to make up the lost time and catch up with them. We should have long-term investments in science and plan in advance," Rao said at his home-office located in the green campus of the premier Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in the city centre.
Noting that China was doing a lot in science because it wanted to overtake America in the field, Rao said even South Korea has beaten Japan by investing heavily in science, technology and innovation.
"China and South Korea are doing very well in science because their investment is very high. They want to beat America after already beating Japan. South Korea is ahead of Japan in technology and innovation. I think we should become like that. Invest more in education and science to secure the future of India," Rao noted.
Admitting that the government had not invested enough in basic education and basic science, Rao said if India has to race with China and South Korea in Asia, investment in both (education and science) should go up to six percent of the GDP (gross domestic product) annually.
"As I said, India's future is tied up with the amount of investment the government would make in the coming years, as the contribution of the private sector was only around two percent of the GDP in education and science. We have to double our investment in science to two-three percent from 1-1.5 percent of the GDP," Rao said.
Recalling that in his advisory capacity, he had done his best to further the growth of science and technology, Rao agreed that a lot more needs to be done in capacity building to meet the growing needs of over 1.2 billion people in the country.
"It is not that we have not succeeded. We have to do more. Our PM (Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) keeps on promosing everything, but it has not actually happened with respect to higher investment in education and science," Rao asserted.
At the same time, Rao observed that in the highly negative atmosphere prevailing across the country, nobody was talking about good things, including the thrust given to the promotion of science and technology in a big way by the government and state-run organisations.
"In the last 8-10 years, India has done a lot of good things in science. Five new institutes of science have been set up in Bhopal, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Pune and Thiruvananthapuram. They are going to be centres of excellence for future science. The government is also investing about Rs.10,000 crore in setting up massive computer centres in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai and other cities as we are as good as the US or China in computers," Rao pointed out.
On technology overtaking science, Rao said unlike in the olden days, technology was developing faster than modern science and the time gap between research and innovation has shortened, especially in nanotechnology where research was turning into technology in a year.
"I think India has to learn to use the latest results of science and technology and innovation. India's ranking in innovation is very bad. We are ranked at 66 in innovation out of 140 countries because we have not been successful in investing in science, technology and innovation. That is why we are not able to compete with China, which has suddenly come up in the last 10 years," Rao recalled.